While we celebrate the 56th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, we tend to turn the blind eye on events that occurred during the Jordanian occupation between 1948-1967
Historian Arthur Arnheim has, in this interview, revisited this painful period in Jerusalem’s Jewish history.
The understanding of what happened to Jerusalem during the years 1948-67 has been blurred by numerous political manipulations.
Facts have been forgotten, and truth has been swept under the carpet.
Armies of five Arab states, joined by local armed gangs, invaded Palestine in 1948.
Arabs and Muslims could not accept that Jews would have sovereignty in any part of the Holy Land, at least in Jerusalem.
The army of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan led by the British general Glubb, trained and armed by the British was the most successful of the Arab armies, capturing what in ancient times was known as Samaria and Judea – now called “the West Bank” and the eastern part of Jerusalem including the Old City and the Temple Mount – by Muslims called Haram al Sharif.
Historians and politicians have said that the Jews of the Old City were evacuated – the truth is that they were expelled.
At the same time, all the synagogues in the Old City – the Churva, the Tiferet Yisrael, and a complex of four minor Jewish places of worship – were deliberately demolished by the Arabs. The aim was clearly to prevent any future Jewish presence in the city.
The war of Independence ended in 1949 with armistice agreements.
As for Jerusalem, an armistice and demarcation line were drawn, dividing the city, leaving the eastern part, including the Old City and the Temple Mount, under Jordanian control.
To use today’s political vocabulary: The Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem and soon annexed it to Jordan.
Only scant evidence remains to explain what happened in the Arab-controlled part of Jerusalem between 1949 and 1967. However, a tourist map produced in the 1950s can be used as a guide.
The engineer A. Spyridon, an inhabitant of the Christian Greek Orthodox quarter of the Old City had drawn a panoramic map, printed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, which offers good information.
Northwest of the city an area is marked “United Nations controlled territory”. This is Mount Scopus showing The Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, which by 1967 had been deserted for 19 years.
The armistice and demarcation line is shown as a chain of barbed wire, in some areas covering broader parts of no-mans-land – dangerous to approach as trigger-happy Jordanian soldiers on top of the Damascus Gate would shoot at whatever they found suspicious on the other side of the line.
Only one passage between the two parts of the city was available: The Mandelbaum Gate, situated close to Mea Sharim and on the other side, not far from the Damascus Gate. Jordanian soldiers controlled the passage. Israelis were barred from entering East Jerusalem as were tourists whose passports showed Israeli visas or entrance stamps.
The map shows numerous Christian and Muslim places of worship and holy sites. The holiest of all Jewish holy sites, the Kotel is only marked with the words “The wailing wall”, obviously because nobody was supposed to go there.
More than 50 years have passed since the unification of Jerusalem. The 21st century has brought a new world based on globalization and the communication revolution. Almost everything has changed, even antisemitism. Previously it was a matter of more or less local affairs; today it is an international phenomenon.
A few issues are unchanged: The powerful Arab and Muslim world pushes for a return to the status quo ante 1967. The European Union presses for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of each state.
Three years ago, the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving its embassy to the city. Since then, not one single country has followed suit.
There is a long way to go until the international community will accept the reality: Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel